Since the days of Eddie George plowing through opposing defenders, the running game has traditionally been a staple of the Tennessee Titans’ offensive attack. Last year was no different, with rookie Chris Johnson and the plump version of LenDale White causing nightmares for the opposition.
Through three preseason games, the Titans’ vaunted smashmouth attack has been anything but dominant. The team is averaging a paltry 72 yards per game and their 2.8 yards per carry is the worst in the league.
Contrary to their nicknames, the explosive Chris Johnson has yet to dash to daylight, and the now-slender LenDale White has been getting smashed consistently.
Of course, it’s only preseason, but should we be getting concerned about the Titans’ uncharacteristic running struggles?
As the picture that flanks this article indicates, the Titan running backs have been swarmed by a sea of defenders on many running plays. Stalwarts Chris Johnson and LenDale White have had little room to operate, to say the least.
A constantly crowded line of scrimmage offers a couple of possible explanations for Johnson and White’s running woes. In my opinion, it’s a classic example of an either or situation: either the Titans are failing to get a push on their offensive line, or the opposing teams are game-planning to stop the two-toned blue smashmouth machine.
I’ll choose the latter for $500, Alex. Here’s why…
Let’s take a closer look at the Titans’ first three opponents this preseason. First up, you had the Buffalo Bills, a team with a coaching staff facing a win-or-else season. Last weekend the Titans faced the Bucs, a squad with a new head coach. Finally, on Friday night, the Cowboys were determined to provide a good showing in the grand unveiling of their colossal new stadium.
To make a long story short, the Titans have faced three teams taking a win-mode approach to the preseason rather than merely evaluating talent, especially when the starters were in the game.
Of course, momentum is an important element and it would behoove the Titans to attain some in the running game as they prepare to face Pittsburgh’s stifling run defense in the season opener. Thus, I’m expecting a better performance out of Smash and Dash against the Titans’ final two preseason opponents.
Therefore, although the preseason numbers indicate otherwise, I’m not too concerned about the Titans failing to run the football against teams that are game-planning to stop them in contests that are meaningless to the outcome of the 2009 NFL season.
What are your thoughts, guys? Are you, like myself, preaching patience, or is it time to panic regarding the team’s running struggles?